How did Australia perform on its UN goals for a sustainable future?

Australia received a mixed report card from the United Nations over its economic, environmental and social indicators. Source: AAP

A report has revealed Australia's mixed progress on meeting UN goals for a sustainable future.

Australia has been praised for its progress in improving health and education, but a report card has revealed the country's poor performance in tackling affordability, inequality and climate change.

The Sustainable Development Goals Report, published on Tuesday, showed high levels of household and government debt has left Australians vulnerable to high-interest rate hikes and unexpected events, exacerbated by stagnant wages growth and underemployment.

Australia has been marked down over its lack of commitment to climate change.
Australia has been marked down over its commitment to climate change.

Australia leads on life expectancy

Researchers at the National Sustainable Development Council (NSDC) and Monash Sustainable Development Institute looked at trends between 2000 to 2015 to gauge progress 17 United Nations Sustainability Goals.

Of the 144 indicators assessed across the 17 goals, only one-third were on track to be achieved by 2030, the report found.

Analysis showed life expectancy in Australia was among the highest in the world, and smoking rates and road traffic deaths have fallen dramatically.

Similarly, Australians were increasingly educated with more people than ever before gaining tertiary qualifications.

Australia has done well with increasing life expectancy.
Australia has done well with increasing life expectancy.

Australians struggle with inequality and climate change

But struggles remained with closing the gender pay gap, tackling wealth inequality and household debt, which had risen to 120 per cent of GDP in 2017.

NSDC Chair Professor John Thwaites says the cost of housing, alongside dramatic increases in electricity prices, had contributed to ballooning household debt.

"We're mortgaging the future," he told AAP.


"What surprised me was how well Australia does in some areas and how poorly in others... we haven't found a way to tackle climate change and reduce inequality."

Australia still have the highest per capita emissions of any OECD country, with emissions from industry and transport increasing and offsetting a decrease in emissions from less land clearing, according to the report.

"This report is really a wake-up call for us to put more effort into some areas that we're not achieving," Prof Thwaites said.

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